Good evening to the people living in the camp (2017)

By Aldo Padilla

The limbos in which some medium-length films are handled due to their duration usually make their situation quite complex in festivals. Most of these films are documentaries 40 to 60 minutes long, and they keep away from the circuits of short and feature films circuits, having serious difficulties to be programmed in commercial cinemas, even at art-house theaters. This is why places like the medium-length film competition in Rotterdam Film Festival are such a great opportunity for their visualization, and for some awards. Also, one can see a great creative freedom in these works and clear examples that duration is not a limiting feature in front of the ideas the pose. This freedom can be seen in the competition selection of this year.

Good evening to the people living in the camp handles this liberty by the fluidity of their images. The outstanding work of several hours of recording in the Greek refugee camps, allowed the migrants to develop trust with the filmmaker (the Dutch Joost Conjin) and his camera, which seems almost invisible, since it manages to capture very intimate moments without any filter. The Greek camps show a series of mixed emotions, from the filming of children playing among theirselves or with their parents, improvised kitchens with several tasty dishes, or the continuous struggle against the weather that serves as a soundtrack for the film.

Even if the film responds to the cliché of “European in a war zone”, the reality stands against with the strong commitment that the filmmaker shows in different moments, since he’s usually very close to the migrants, like in the scene where he must escape the threat of the migration police with his camera on hand, or during the end of the film where he accompanies a refugee that, through Google Maps, searches for an adequate passage from Greece to Macedonia, among an absolute dark moon-less night.

Conjin achieves several moments of quotidian humor through a montage that is very akin the film economy, not only with the children but also the adults, which in small acts search for a distraction to forget the uncertain panorama. If maybe in some films like Spectres are haunting Europe one can see a humane and sensible treatment in this subject, the Dutch film takes the quotidian to the extreme, achieving a film that tours the fields with an honesty and empathy that brings the occidental spectator close to this complex situation.   

Cartucho (2017)

Cartucho by Andrés Chávez bears some resemblance to the last paragraph, since it must explore a scenario of extreme poverty and overcrowding, in this case in Colombia. Through archive images, the filmmaker describes the movement of the place with an absolute uncontrollable attitude from the authorities, and where the drugs, violence and prostitution are the local currency.

The central planning of Cartucho lies in a constant defeat against any kind of reconditioning of the neighborhood habitants, since after their intervention and destruction in the eighties, and the implantation of a concrete park, this became a zone of danger again, with a part of that zone becoming the famous Bronx, an uncontrollable place. Beyond the historical context, Chavez turns to historic sources and images to describe a neighborhood completely far away from the established order, that despite a situation of complex marginalization, had fleeting moments of distention. The files also show the strong police repression of this small island of violence in the heart of Bogota, and beyond the recurrent topic of a “marginalization film” of Latino barrios there’s a montage that avoids the tendentious and the extremes of victimization or criminalization of the inhabitants, and constantly clashes against a no-exit zone, since the people of this barrio will continue to wonder, together or alone, as long as a true solution for a sustained poverty is not found.

Playing Men (2017)

Without a doubt the most singular film of the competition of Bright Future is Playing Men by the Slovenian Matjaž Ivanišin, that under the premise of registering different sports and local games in Southern and Eastern Europe shows a homoerotic beauty in some movements characterized by the oil that shine in the body of Slovenian fighters, or the harmony based in solitude of a rock thrower that realizes the same ritual again and again, with little variations.

A game of hands almost undecipherable to the newcomer is a perfect extract of what the film represents: a game that is lived with a unique intensity and where one can see that certain dexterity is what makes the same people win again and again. If thought most of the film, the filmmaker visits these different games and the nuances in every one of them, towards the end of the film; everything seems like an excuse for the filmmaker to focus in an epic reminder of the victory by Goran Ivaniševic in Wimbledon, who was received in his country by a vast amount of ships and thousands of people, waiting for one of the biggest sport achievements in the country.